European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 118, Issue 8, pp 1673–1688 | Cite as

Effects of exercise intensity and cardiorespiratory fitness on the acute response of arterial stiffness to exercise in older adults

  • Maria Perissiou
  • Tom G. Bailey
  • Mark Windsor
  • Michael Chi Yuan Nam
  • Kim Greaves
  • Anthony S. Leicht
  • Jonathan Golledge
  • Christopher D. Askew
Original Article



Increased arterial stiffness is observed with ageing and in individuals with low cardiorespiratory fitness (\(\dot {V}\)O2peak), and associated with cardiovascular risk. Following an exercise bout, transient arterial stiffness reductions offer short-term benefit, but may depend on exercise intensity. This study assessed the effects of exercise intensity on post-exercise arterial stiffness in older adults with varying fitness levels.


Fifty-one older adults (72 ± 5 years) were stratified into fitness tertiles (\(\dot {V}\)O2peak: low-, 22.3 ± 3.1; mid-, 27.5 ± 2.4 and high-fit 36.3 ± 6.5 mL kg−1 min−1). In a randomised order, participants underwent control (no-exercise), moderate-intensity continuous exercise (40% of peak power output; PPO), and higher-intensity interval exercise (70% of PPO) protocols. Pulse wave velocity (PWV), augmentation index (AIx75) and reflection magnitude (RM) were assessed at rest and during 90 min of recovery following each protocol.


After control, delta PWV increased over time (P < 0.001) and delta RM was unchanged. After higher-intensity interval exercise, delta PWV (P < 0.001) and delta RM (P < 0.001) were lower to control in all fitness groups. After moderate-intensity continuous exercise, delta PWV was not different from control in low-fit adults (P = 0.057), but was lower in the mid- and higher-fit older adults. Post-exercise AIx75 was higher to control in all fitness groups (P = 0.001).


In older adults, PWV increases during seated rest and this response is attenuated after higher-intensity interval exercise, regardless of fitness level. This attenuation was also observed after moderate-intensity continuous exercise in adults with higher, but not lower fitness levels. Submaximal exercise reveals differences in the arterial stiffness responses between older adults with higher and lower cardiorespiratory fitness.


Pulse wave velocity Wave reflection characteristics Exercise intensity Ageing 



Augmentation index corrected for heart rate


Central diastolic blood pressure


Central pulse pressure


Central systolic blood pressure


Heart rate


Linear mixed model


Mean arterial pressure


Backward pressure wave


Forward pressure wave


Peak power output


Pulse wave velocity


Reflection magnitude


Rate of perceived exertion

\(\dot {V}\)O2peak

Peak oxygen consumption



This research was funded by grants from the National Health and Medical Research Council (1000967, 1022752, 1079369) and The Townsville Hospital. Professor Jonathan Golledge’s work is supported by fellowships from the NHMRC (1117061) and the Queensland Government (Senior Clinical Research Fellowship). Support for this work was also provided through the Inflammation and Healing Research Cluster at the University of the Sunshine Coast.

Author contribution statement

All authors read and approved the manuscript. Below is the short description of the manuscript contribution made by each listed author: Conceived and designed the experiment: MP, MW, TB, CA. Performed the experiment: MP, MW, TB. Analysed the data: MP, TB, CA. Wrote/reviewed the paper: MP, TB, MW, MN, KG, AL, JG, CA.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.VasoActive Research Group, School of Health and Sport SciencesUniversity of the Sunshine CoastSunshine CoastAustralia
  2. 2.Centre for Research on Exercise, Physical Activity and Health, School of Human Movement and Nutrition SciencesThe University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  3. 3.Sunshine Coast University HospitalSunshine Coast Hospital and Health ServiceBirtinya, Sunshine CoastAustralia
  4. 4.Sport and Exercise ScienceJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia
  5. 5.Queensland Research Centre for Peripheral Vascular DiseaseJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia
  6. 6.Department of Vascular and Endovascular SurgeryThe Townsville HospitalTownsvilleAustralia

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